Is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic over in Western New York?

Mixed messages over the COVID-19 spread
Posted at 5:48 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 17:48:48-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Cuomo said he believes the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. But is that true for all of New York State? Or just New York City? Officials in Erie County said we are not out of the woods yet.

“While New York State may have reached its peak, we don’t believe we've reached our peak,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, “We don't know if we're nearing our peak [or] we're still away from our peak. The models we have looked at show us a number of weeks from the peak.”

Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner, and Poloncarz referenced data from Erie County to both agree Erie County is not through the thick of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We don't have any information that shows we're on the decline,” said Dr. Burstein.

Governor Cuomo has sounded more optimistic in his recent daily updates.

“I think you can say the worst is over because the worst here are people dying,” Cuomo said.

The reason for the mixed message lies in the data.

“New York State's peak is always going to be skewed because of what you see downstate,” Poloncarz said.

Dr. Raul Vazquez said state data is weighted by New York City. It doesn't reflect Western New York. That's because they've done more tests downstate.

“They've got the data. They have a lot of the infrastructure downstate. But upstate, we're not there yet,” said Dr. Vazquez, “We don't have enough tests. We haven't had enough tests. I think as we're opening up [testing ]now we're getting a better idea.”

Officials said Western New York seems to be about two weeks behind New York City.

“This week and next week is when we start to get to our peak,” Dr. Vazquez said.

“Western New York was one of the last to have confirmed cases. As a result, we are going to be one of the last to get to our peak and then on the downward trend,” Poloncarz said.

But, everyone agrees social distancing is key and must continue.

“The real focus is on keeping people safe and healthy and not spreading this virus in the community,” said Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo.

“What we do today determines where we are a week from now whether we reach our peak or plateau,” said Dr. Burstein.